Abramovich must learn from Manchester City if Chelsea are to achieve success

Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, may not need lessons on making money, but he could profitably learn from Sheikh Mansour on how to manage football. The particular lesson he needs to learn is the crucial relationship between owner and manager, always a key to success in the game.

Both Mansour and Abramovich inherited coaches when they bought their respective clubs. Mansour inherited Mark Hughes, Abramovich, Claudio Ranieri. The Emirati made one change and was much criticised for bringing in Roberto Mancini. At first it did not seem to make much of a difference, but two years down the line, we can see what a new world the Italian has ushered in at Eastlands, and how well he has used the Sheikh’s money.

Russian money has, of course, changed Chelsea, but Abramovich just cannot settle on a manager. He is now on his seventh manager since his take over in 2003. André Villas-Boas may say, as he did after the defeat against Liverpool, “The owner didn’t pay Euro £15 million (£13 million) to get me out of Porto, to pay me another fortune to get me out.” But then, he does not know the Russian. Starting with Ranieri, and carrying on with his most successful manager, José Mourinho, the Russian has never been worried about shelling out redundancy money if he is convinced he wants a change in the dugout.

The problem is the Russian gives the impression of one of those medieval monarchs who wanted pleasure all the time, but without quite knowing how to obtain permanent bliss. He had success, the like of which Chelsea had never before enjoyed under Mourinho, but then fell out with the Portuguese in a blaze and it has gone on like that since. The basic problem is Abramovich just does not want any old domestic success, he craves the Champions League. And while he came within a width of a goal post of getting it in Moscow in 2008 (what a pleasure that would have been), he also wants fluent, flowing football that will enthral him. He wants to feel football is worth spending his fortunes on.

In search of this, he has re-written the rules of football management. Before Abramovich, a manager wining domestic double was guaranteed, if not a job for life, at least the security of tenure for several seasons. Carlo Ancelotti, having done the double, lasted a season. The result is that all Chelsea managers seem to start afresh, as if a new owner has just arrived.

Listen to what Villas-Boas said after Sunday’s defeat: “We’ve set out to build something new at this club.” But if, after nine years, every new manager is building something new, what happens to what was built by the previous manager? No wonder Chelsea’s football looks like a permanent building site where the scaffolding is never removed.

In contrast, City’s Middle-East potentate has understood that to get success in football, you need one point of constancy: the manager. City’s great rival, Manchester United, understood that long ago, sticking with Sir Alex Ferguson through the dark days of late 80s, when even Manchester United fans wanted his head. The Russian just does not get it. He can always bring in a new man, but at this rate of change, it is hard to see Chelsea achieve the success he wants. The wonderful palace of football he desires will never be completed.


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